Saturday, May 23, 2009

Grateful Dead 05-09-09 at the Forum, Inglewood, CA

I am a Jerry-come-lately to the Grateful Dead. My first concert was December 9, 1993 at the Sports Arena. But by the end of the concert, I was hooked. Unfortunately, due to Jerry Garcia's death in August of 1995, I was only able to see them live on two other occasions. So, needless to say, I have been Jonesing to see them again in any way, shape or form. The Dead (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, Jeff Chimenti, and Warren Haynes) announced that they were putting together a spring tour, and I immediately bought tickets.

Jean was "lucky" enough to escort me to the experience that is a Dead concert. We got to the Forum parking lot about an hour before the band hit the stage. We strolled around, stepped over pee (we think dog, but not sure), turned down the offers of veggie burritos and other fun items. The crazies were definitely in full effect.

We decided after we saw the cops telling people to empty their balloons that it was time to go inside. We got to our seats just in time to hear the first note of Viola Lee Blues. "The judge decreed it, the clerk he wrote it." The blues jam drifted into Bertha. "I had to move, really had to move, That's why if you please, I am on my bendin' knees, Bertha don't you come around here anymore." Bertha jammed back to Viola Lee, "Some got six month some got one solid. But me and my buddies all got lifetime here." This transitioned into Caution (Don't Stop on the tracks). The drums took on a staccato railroad beat and Warren belted out, "All you need is a mojo hand". This eventually flowed back into Viola Lee. 40 minutes into the concert, and they had finally finished playing the song they started off with.

One of my favorite jams of all time was done at UCLA in November of 1973. Playing in the Band>Uncle John's Band>Morning Dew>UJB>Playing. There's something about weaving multiple songs together that the Dead do so well, and that was the best of all time for me. But I didn't get to experience that in person. So, this was incredibly special to me. I later found out that the band hadn't played Viola Lee and Caution in the same set in Los Angeles since 1968! This was one for the ages. As Viola Lee came to an end, the theme for the evening was set, "You may know by that I've got a friend somewhere", the Dead were glad to be back amongst friends. "All of my friends come to see me last night", Black Peter was up next and Cosmic Charlie finished the opening set, "Say you'll come back when you can."

Jean and I stayed in our seats during the first intermission. When the band returned to the stage, they started cooking with Shakedown Street. I couldn't help but think that the Forum, "used to be the heart of town." Since the opening of the Staples Center, this old arena has been all but forgotten. I'm glad they went old school for this concert. It just makes more sense. Next on the setlist was New Speedway Boogie, "I spent a little time on the mountain Spent a little time on the hill." Maybe it was some kind of contact high, or maybe Bob and Phil were on another plane, but it seemed like my face was melting a bit from the heat coming off the stage. This was the weekend of the Santa Barbara fires, and the Dead took this opportunity to reflect on the devastation by throwing Scarlet Begonias/Fire on the Mountain at us. Scarlet Begonias has one of my favorite lyrics, "Once in a while you get shown the light In the strangest of places if you look at it right." This is kind of a mantra of mine nowadays. You never know when something good is going to come along (*cough*Jean*cough*). Fire ended up being the only song of the evening that is also on Rock Band. I got my lovely lady to chant the chorus with me, "Fire, fire on the mountain!!!"

Drums/Space started, and I usually take this opportunity to walk around, but the Forum isn't a good place to do that. So, we sat and enjoyed Drums and then "endured" Space. I found it to be an interesting Space, but Jean wasn't amused. It's definitely an acquired taste. Space flowed right into Dark Effing Star!!! Some more history here. By the time I got into the Dead, they weren't really playing Dark Star anymore. That didn't stop the die-hard dead heads from screaming it at the top of their lungs through most of the concert as if their pleas would be heard by Jerry and he was just insert it into the well thought out setlist. So, I have always joked about that at concerts. Kind of like yelling, "Free Bird!" I had permagrin as I heard, "Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds". They embedded a fantastic Wharf Rat into the middle of Dark Star, and I was in rock-n-roll heaven. One of my vices is playing the PC Video Game "Guild Wars." I've named quite a few characters after Dead songs. August West and Pearly Baker are two of my Nightfall characters (I've always wondered if GW was developed by Deadheads with an expansion entitled Nightfall - you never know). "My name is August West, and I love my Pearly Baker best, more than my wine". Well, the concert was nearly over, and Jean still hadn't heard a familiar tune. So, the Dead obliged by playing a classic Rolling Stones song - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. This finished the second set, but the obligatory encore was only moments away. Since it was a Saturday night, I was pretty sure what it was going to be. One More Saturday Night completed the evening's festivities. "Don't worry about tomorrow, Lord, you'll know it when it comes. When the rocking, rolling music meets the rising, shining sun."

I should have posted this review a couple weeks ago, but sometimes, things need to be done just right. I hope you find this was worth the wait. I know that this concert was for me.

This was the most enjoyable of the four (Grateful) Dead concerts that I've attended. For that and nostalgic reasons, it earns 5 Popes!


  1. I've never "gotten" the Dead. Living in the bay area I've been inundated with Grateful Deadness all my life but, not a fan. I've seen them a couple of times, once at a Day on the Green where they were the opening act for The Who -- I fell asleep during the Grateful Dead, woke up when The Who hit the stage. But my younger sister was a bona fide Deadhead for many, many years. She's now a suburban housewife in Iowa and born again Christian -- I've always figured Jesus supplanted The Dead in her life.

    But, that all said -- sounds like you all enjoyed yourself.

  2. It was my first show in 14 years. It was my wife's first show ever. May 9th at the forum was spectacular! All I can say is my wife now understands my obsession with this band.